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The smallest signs of retreat - Comments

Konradius's Avatar Comment 1 by Konradius

First!
And again a piece of complete and utter drivel. Apparently Bunting (what's in a name?) has never let any viewpoint challenge hers.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 05:47:00 UTC | #64970

JackR's Avatar Comment 2 by JackR

This tripe is getting a well-deserved kicking over on the comments page at The Guardian, not least from RD himself. Me and quite a few regulars from this site have also weighed in. It's pretty busy, and I recommend you join the melee - assuming you haven't already!

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 05:47:00 UTC | #64971

Linda's Avatar Comment 4 by Linda

The overall responses to Ms Bunting's factless diatribe against Dawkins is that she is deluded & misinformed. She could be renamed Mis-Information.
Many posters on CiF have suggested that Bunting check out
Dawkins copious debates & interviews with people like McGrath & others.

The 6 minute interview that Bunting describes as debate is one of those quickie CNN-FOX-news-tainment segments in which no speaker is given the microphone for more than 60 seconds.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1612,Interview-with-Richard-Dawkins-and-John-Cornwell,BBC-Radio-4-Today-Programme

Is it that everyone has a short attention span?

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 05:51:00 UTC | #64973

Lana's Avatar Comment 3 by Lana

I truly don't understand what she's talking about. But I only read it once and I regret the time I wasted. Did you read the same book we read? Did she hear the same "debate" we heard? Talk about crazy reading.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 05:51:00 UTC | #64972

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 5 by Russell Blackford

Wow, what a load of incomprehensible gobbledegook.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 05:57:00 UTC | #64975

Oromasdes1978's Avatar Comment 6 by Oromasdes1978

I will have to concur with the right honourable ladies and gentlemen of this post, Ms Bunting is talking the most almighty drivel known to humanity, all in favour of her case getting thrown out of court say aye!

Judge Philip!

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:06:00 UTC | #64979

PeterK's Avatar Comment 7 by PeterK

Should we all be surprised anymore at the preposterous things someone says when defending someone else who says preposterous things who defends a faith which demands someone believe in preposterous things?

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:09:00 UTC | #64981

canatheist's Avatar Comment 8 by canatheist

Look up drivel in the dictionary and you'll see picture of Ms. Bunting, I am sure. Misses the point of everything. Only a relatively small portion of religious people are extremists, but a very high portion of extremist are religious.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:33:00 UTC | #64988

aitchkay's Avatar Comment 9 by aitchkay

Summary: "Please lower your voice Mr Dawkins. What you're saying may well be true, but it's dangerous."

Richard Dawkins' normal arrogance...
that's plain nasty

trying to justify his comments that bringing a child up with a religious faith is akin to a "milder form of sexual abuse".
No, he said *labelling* children with the religion of their parents can be akin to a milder form of sexual abuse.
Narrow certainties - wherever they come from - have unprecedented capacity to generate destruction.
which is precisely why we are right to challenge them.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:39:00 UTC | #64989

matthijsln's Avatar Comment 10 by matthijsln

In the second paragraph before the last she literally says religions are myths created by humanity and not based upon facts.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:44:00 UTC | #64991

felixandur's Avatar Comment 11 by felixandur

Hmm, as I have become more familiar with Ms Bunting's work, I have begun to suspect that she subscribes to the ascetic tradition and is seeking spritual growth and inner humility through the whip of righteous criticism. To this end she consciously writes drivel in order to invite us, the unwitting public, to undertake her "cleansing".

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:45:00 UTC | #64993

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 12 by Russell Blackford

Let's say it yet again. Exposing children to some kinds of religious belief - those which involve subjecting kids to terror - is indeed seriously abusive. To say that the psychological torture often inflicted on children in the name of religion is just as bad as some of the milder kinds of sexual abuse is really an understatement. I get sick of the kneejerk reaction that if a sexual element is involved in something it must automatically be at the highest level of evil. Pedophilia is doubtless an evil; there are other evils which are even worse. As I said last time this came up, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell_house.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:50:00 UTC | #64995

Prufrock's Avatar Comment 13 by Prufrock

This Ms Bunting has a very articulate bottom! Either that or she talks through it a lot. I can't be bothered to say anything remotely thoughtful about this, because it is completely incomprehensible. I'd say it was all plain wrong but I don't understand any of it so I can't even say that.

"What the media wants is polemic not reasonable exploration of complex issues - does Dawkins resist that tendency or play up to it? He clearly has a huge vested interest in doing the latter because it has made him a fortune out of booksales."

I feel insulted by this and I really don't like the idea of someone reducing my need to know and understand to a cheap marketing gag.

I'm disappointed once again by the psuedo intelligent garbage dished out by these wholly inadequate commentators. I fear this will not be the last time I read inept twaddle on this subject.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:50:00 UTC | #64996

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 14 by Zaphod

Madeleine Bunting after one sentence I can tell you either read the God Delusion with your eyes shut or you have never read it. John Cornwell set up straw men against Richard Dawkins and at points I had the feeling he was just completely telling lies. If you had read the God Delusion you would have seen how inaccurate a portrayal of Cornwell made of Dawkins arguments. I find it amazing and ridiculous that John Cornwell has written a book long response to The God Delusion when he seems he hasn't read it and has perhaps just read 1 or 2 bad reviews of it.

I think she should stick to writing her book about the countryside because unless she is going to actually read a book before criticising it she is going to keep looking foolish.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:53:00 UTC | #64998

jimbob's Avatar Comment 15 by jimbob

Set fire to a strawman -- oops, there goes #9 again!

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:55:00 UTC | #65000

Nebularry's Avatar Comment 16 by Nebularry

Haven't we seen this sort of argument before? Bunting states, "In common with our highly rationalised culture, Dawkins fails completely to understand how powerful myth is - not in terms of factual, historical truth - but in terms of emotional, spiritual truth. Human beings make and use myths and have always done so; the crucial issue is whether those myths are benign, sustaining or destructive. Dawkins insists on taking the most literal - and least sophisticated - reading of religious myth as factual truth; he calls for "evidence" for belief in his interview on the Today programme today."

But it is EXACTLY the "least sophisticated" religious myth that polls show most Americans believe. We human beings seem to have emormous propensity for believing the most outrageous and least sophisticated nonsense.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:55:00 UTC | #65001

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 17 by Paula Kirby

I've never posted to the Guardian before, but hey, life is nothing if not an adventure, so I have signed up and this is what I submitted:

A remarkable book in so many ways, The God Delusion may well also hold the distinction of being the most misrepresented book ever written.

The chasm between Dawkins' views as clearly expressed in his book and as distorted by his critics is so enormous (and so common) that it is becoming increasingly difficult to see it as accidental. It's rather as if The Wind in the Willows had been reviewed by someone determined to find Frankenstein's Monster.

In yesterday's all too brief discussion on the Today programme, Dawkins simply took the opportunity to put the Radio 4 audience straight on some of the more outrageous distortions that Cornwell had indulged in. Even the most talented military strategist would find it hard to retreat from a position he had never taken.

STOP PRESS! GOOD NEWS FOR BOOK REVIEWERS! As an added incentive to get you to actually READ The God Delusion before you write your next review of it, Dawkins has gone to considerable trouble to ensure that it is chock full of views that he really DOES hold, all expressed with admirable clarity. The great thing about this is that it eliminates the need for you to make it all up. So do try reading it - you'll love it.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 06:56:00 UTC | #65003

Yorker's Avatar Comment 18 by Yorker

Well, I hope you look better than you sound, because I think what you need most is a good punting Ms Bunting!

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 07:10:00 UTC | #65012

Prufrock's Avatar Comment 19 by Prufrock

#68423 Jack Rawlinson

I've just had a quick look at the guardian message board and I have found only one message which supports Bunting's wholly mistaken article. If I wrote an article and found it offended virtually everyone that read it, I think I would keep my silly mouth shut in future or make sure I'm fully acquainted with my ignorances and prejudices before I attempt to insult someone speaking on behalf of, not leading, I don't need a leader, of a group of clear thinking, friendly and articulate people.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 07:10:00 UTC | #65013

dubyamd's Avatar Comment 20 by dubyamd

i always look forward to reading this criticisms of Dawkins, waiting for one that raises good, clear arguments... and I'm always disappointed. I feel like they totally are missing key points (and in some cases FACTS), so any 'arguments' they come up with are just pointless from the get-go.

Or they just don't know what they're talking about. Good example:
"No, said Dawkins, I never said religion was a disease, only "a virus". It was a shame we didn't have time to establish the fine distinction Dawkins was trying to make."

Really? You need him to establish the distinction between a virus and a disease? Really?

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 07:13:00 UTC | #65014

bitbutter's Avatar Comment 21 by bitbutter

reposted

Utter drivel. So many mistakes and misrepresentations.

"Dawkins ....he persists with a parody, a childlike perception of God and religion."

So do the vast majority of believers--Dawkins has repeatedly made it abundantly clear this is the kind of belief that is the primary target of TGD. If you aren't aware that Dawkins has always acknowledged that there are many moderate believers then you haven't been paying attention.

Where do you get the idea that Dawkins is blind to modern myths? Is it because he didn't mention these topics in a book written about something entirely different? Maybe you think the professor is blind to the problem of global warming too, after all i don't recall a chapter in 'The God Delusion' dealing with this very serious issue.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 07:14:00 UTC | #65015

the_assayer's Avatar Comment 22 by the_assayer

I would not call this article "utter drivel". Surely there is a genuine lack in her understanding of Dawkin's position, like for instance the sense in which "virus" is used( as a meme),but she does bring up an important aspect about the new atheistic movement- the aspect of "policy". Politically atheism should merge with secularism, something that rarely gets mentioned by Richard et al. In other words, it is easy for a believer to interpret the movement as politically oppressive towards relgion. There should be an attempt to explain the difference between "criticising" religion and "oppressing" it.



"But in the process he got very tangled up trying to justify his comments that bringing a child up with a religious faith is akin to a "milder form of sexual abuse" "- Bunting

This is clearly a distorting Dawkins' views. His point is that Religious indoctrination is a "case" of "child abuse". In other words he is trying to say that we should treat such action as "abusive" to the child. The word abuse may have common sexual connotations, but as a literary person its not excusable that she overlooked such an obvious mis-interpretation. "...akin to a milder form of sexual abuse.." seems like a desparate attempt to frame Dawkins as saying, " Religious parents are like "mild" child molesters".

In my opinion, Dawkins should drop the "Religion is abusive" slogan. Politically it wont work. To reach beleiving parents and to convince them about the immorality of such indoctrination, we need to be more patient and communicative. Moreover, such political pleading should not be done through some twenty second sound-bite where it becomes all too confusing and provides easy fodder for such unresearched and reactionary reviews.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 07:20:00 UTC | #65016

Prufrock's Avatar Comment 23 by Prufrock

the assayer, #68469

"but she does bring up an important aspect about the new atheistic movement- the aspect of "policy". Politically atheism should merge with secularism, something that rarely gets mentioned by Richard et al. In other words, it is easy for a believer to interpret the movement as politically oppressive towards relgion. There should be an attempt to explain the difference between "criticising" religion and "oppressing" it."

Begs a number of questions. Is atheism a movement? Are we interested in politics? Are we really responsible for a believer feeling 'oppressed' when in reality we are simply criticising his/her unsubstantiated claims, or are we just simply ensuring that the voice of reason is heard, because not only do we have plenty to say - most of it reasonable - but many wonderful things have been done in its name. Are we supposed to be nice about belief without foundation? I'm not so sure this is what atheism is all about. Professor is a marvellous focal point for the atheists, quite simply because he is urbane, charming, as well as supremely qualified and accurate in what he says. Atheism is not about playing a political game it is about simply telling the truth about the universe and our place in it. Well that's what it means to me. Politicise it and I'm off.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 07:32:00 UTC | #65023

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 24 by hungarianelephant

the_assayer (22) - If you're just talking about the slogan, I agree. RD doesn't in fact use it. That's the distorted reduction of his detractors. But IMO the general approach of naming certain behaviour as abusive is a good one, and I've found a number of (admittedly moderate) believers very receptive to the notion. While I don't think we'll convince many that sending your child to Sunday School is a form of abuse, most sensible people can grasp that threatening kids with torture in hell is not a good thing. That has to be a start.

Wrt the "Christian child" issue, Marcus Brigstocke has the best line. "A 4-year-old child can no more be a Christian than a member of the Postal Workers' Union".

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 07:37:00 UTC | #65026

NJS's Avatar Comment 25 by NJS

I'm still waiting for an answer to this question:

If you don't believe in a "man with a beard crashing about in the sky" then what the hell do you believe in?

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 08:16:00 UTC | #65033

Erik's Avatar Comment 26 by Erik

I particularly liked Bunting's reference to the exchange between Harris and Sullivan. It was a thorough thrashing of Sullivan's position by Harris, almost to the point of embarassment for Sullivan. But Harris was polite, no question about it. Perhaps Bunting is suggesting to Dawkins that this is the proper way to demolish a theist?

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 08:25:00 UTC | #65035

Arcturus's Avatar Comment 27 by Arcturus

Bunting accepts that religion is nothing but myth. That's what we are saying, too.

Why doesn't she debate the fundies, and convince them about this issue?

Once she settles this, then we can talk about living our lives according to myths and which are good or bad.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 08:52:00 UTC | #65038

jimmm33's Avatar Comment 28 by jimmm33

Seems like she's confused about what she believes.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 09:39:00 UTC | #65048

monoape's Avatar Comment 29 by monoape

Rather than 'throw peanuts from the gallery', I've written to the editor and the eye-wateringly deceitful woman directly:

letters@guardian.co.uk, madeleine.bunting@guardian.co.uk

Dear sirs,

Having read Madeleine Bunting's article, 'The smallest signs of retreat' (http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/madeleine_bunting/2007/09/the_smallest_signs_of_retreat.html), I would like to express my deep displeasure that The Guardian is allowing such dreadful 'journalism' on to its pages.

As has been pointed out over and over in the comments to this article, Ms Bunting is guilty of some combination of laziness, incompetence and plain dishonesty.

Rather than repeat in detail the many arguments for that assertion, may I refer you to replies provided by Professor Dawkins:

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/madeleine_bunting/2007/09/the_smallest_signs_of_retreat.html#comment-798710
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/madeleine_bunting/2007/09/the_smallest_signs_of_retreat.html#comment-798748

I sincerely hope that a correction and / or retraction is printed by The Guardian to redress the falsehoods made by Ms Bunting, and that in future she might consider researching her articles more carefully, or that someone be assigned to check them for her prior to publication.

Yours respectfully,

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 09:54:00 UTC | #65051

Bruno's Avatar Comment 30 by Bruno

"In common with our highly rationalised culture, Dawkins fails completely to understand how powerful myth is - not in terms of factual, historical truth - but in terms of emotional, spiritual truth. Human beings make and use myths and have always done so; the crucial issue is whether those myths are benign, sustaining or destructive. Dawkins insists on taking the most literal - and least sophisticated - reading of religious myth as factual truth; he calls for "evidence" for belief in his interview on the Today programme today."

According to my American Heritage Dictionary, "Myth" is defined as: 1) A traditional story presenting supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serve as primordial types in a primitive view of the world. 2) Any fictitious or imaginary story, person, or thing. 3) A notion based more on tradition or convenience than of fact.

Joseph Campbell believed and made somewhat of a strong case that human beings NEED myths, including the ceremony and ritual that accompany them. But is it asking too much that we all (Christians included) just admit that our primordial myths are simply that -- MYTHS -- and not based on anything real?

Fri, 07 Sep 2007 10:01:00 UTC | #65052